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Moving Robe Warrior Woman

6/24/2005:

On this day 129 years ago, Custer and the 7th Cavalry were one day away from their fate at the Little Big Horn River. Among the warriors who fought the following day was Tashna Mani or Moving Robe Woman. The following is an abridged version of her account of what happened:

“Several of us young Indian women were digging wild turnips when I saw a cloud of dust rise beyond a ridge of bluffs in the east. We looked towards camp and saw a warrior ride swiftly, shouting that the solders were only a few miles away, and that the women and children and old men should run for the hills in the opposite direction. I dropped the pointed ash stick, which I had used in digging turnips and ran toward my tipi. I saw my father running toward the horses... in a few moments we saw soldiers on horseback on a bluff just across the (river).

“...I saw my father preparing to go to the battle. I sang a death song for my young brother, One Hawk, who had been killed. I ran to a nearby thicket and got my black horse. I painted my face with crimson and braided my black hair. I was mourning. I was a woman, but I was not afraid.

“By this time the soldiers were forming a battle line in the bottom about a half mile away. In another moment I heard a volley of carbines. The bullets shattered tipi poles. Women and children were running away from the gunfire. In the tumult I heard old men and women singing death songs for their warriors who were now ready to attack the soldiers. The songs made me brave... Father led my horse to me and...we galloped toward the soldiers. Other warriors joined in with us.

“When we were nearing the fringe of the woods, an order was given by Hawk Man to charge... The troopers were all on foot. They shot straight, because I saw Hawk Man killed... The charge was so stubborn that the soldiers ran to their horses and... rode swiftly toward the river where the horses had to swim to get across. Some of the warriors rode into the water and killed some of the soldiers and unhorsed some of them. The warriors chased the soldiers across the river and up over a bluff, then they returned to where the battle took place and sang a victory song.

“Someone said that another body of soldiers was attacking the lower end of the village. I heard afterwards that these soldiers were under the command of Pehin Hanska (Hair Long)... I rode in that direction holding my brother's war staff over my head. Rain in the Face shouted, "Behold, there is among us a young woman! Let no young man ride behind her garment!"...

“We crossed the Greasy Grass below a beaver dam where the water is not so deep, and came upon many horses. One soldier was holding the reins of eight or ten horses. An Indian waved his blanket to scare the horses and they got away... On the ridge just north of us, I saw blueclad men running up a ravine, firing as they ran. The valley was dense with powder smoke. Long Hair's troops were trapped... The Cheyennes attacked... from the north, and Crow King from the south.

“After the battle the Indians took all the equipment and horses belonging to the soldiers. We did not know who the soldiers were until an interpreter told us that the men came from Ft. Lincoln in Dakota Territory. On the saddle blankets were the crossed saber insignia and the figure "7". The brave men who came to punish us that morning were defeated; but in the end the Indians lost. Over sixty Indians were killed, and they were brought back to the camp for scaffold burial. The Indians did not stage a victory dance that night. They were mourning for their own dead. The next day Sitting Bull’s band packed our tents and started north to the Canadian line where we remained four years until Sitting Bull surrendered at Fort Buford.”

That was an account by Moving Robe Woman, who fought against Custer’s 7th Cavalry to avenge the death of One Hawk, her brother, in the Battle of the Little Big Horn.

Source: Frank Zahn. 1931. Lakota Accounts of the Battle of Little Big Horn.

Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm